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Norfolk City Council to vote on $18M purchase of MacArthur Center

A special meeting is set for Wednesday, months after JLL Commercial Real Estate listed the once-flourishing Downtown Norfolk mall for sale in January.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk City Council is considering buying MacArthur Center in Downtown Norfolk, months after the mall's owners listed the property for sale.

In a letter addressed to council members Tuesday, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander called for a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss the purchase.

According to the meeting docket, the council will discuss freeing up $18 million to purchase the property, as well as an operating agreement.

Their plan?

Continue to operate the property the way it is-- as a mall.

JLL Commercial Real Estate listed the mall for sale in January amid a struggle to keep tenants and bring in customers.

While the mall was seen as a booming success when it opened in 1999, department store retail has seen a significant decline in recent years, especially after losing Nordstrom in 2019. Multiple shootings and other crime in and near MacArthur Center has also contributed to its woes.

"We’ve usually just gone there to eat at the food court while seeing a lot of businesses close down. It sucks," said Sahil Trayhan, owner of Bonchon in downtown Norfolk.

People like Tate Garcia say they still go check out some of the stores and movie theater.

"A lot of times I’ll go with a friend or so and we’ll go walk around a little bit, go check out the Cool and Eclectic store," he said. "Look at the records, talk to the guy who owns the store."

Mayor Kenny Alexander told us Tuesday afternoon, the mall needs some help.

"The mall has been declining for years. The revenue that the city wants realized for the mall has not been there for quite some time," he said.

He calls it a strategic purchase.

"To have the city at the table to continue to operate it as a mall. The transaction should be seamless. We’ll honor the contracts and the tenants and the agreements that are already in place."

Trayhan said keeping the existing stores open is a good move.

"I wish the city treats it nicely and supports Norfolk."

The council meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday. Those interested in addressing the council regarding the purchase can register to do so by calling 757-664-4253 or emailing ccouncil@norfolk.gov.

The deadline to sign up is 3 p.m. Wednesday.

This would be the second mall Norfolk city leaders purchased in recent years.

The other being Military Circle Mall, with Grammy Award Winner and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams looking to develop it.

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